Like many college students, Harrison Wick ‘00 wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after graduation. Now the special collections librarian and university archivist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Wick just published his first book, Pennsylvania’s Back Mountain.
The book, released in January 2009, is part of the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing, which uses archival photographs to tell the story of places across the nation.
“I had developed a web site for the Back Mountain Historical Association and Arcadia Publishing contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in writing a book about Back Mountain,” Wick remembered. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Wick began his involvement with historical societies as an undergraduate history major at Washington College. “The Kent County Historical Society offered a wonderful opportunity to learn about public history,” he said.
At the historical society, his main tasks were organizing ledgers and archival collections, skills that came in handy later in his career. After earning graduate degrees in History and Library Science from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, Wick’s first job was with the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington. As a project archivist there, he organized the congressional papers of U.S. Senator William V. Roth, Jr., who created the Roth IRA.
“There were over a thousand boxes of materials—1,027 actually,” Wick recalled, “and it took a year and a half.”
For three years, Wick was the archivist at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. Dallas is in the Back Mountain, the subject of Wick’s book. Wick does similar work in his current role as a special collections librarian and university archivist at IUP, he organizes and maintains archival collections, and helps researchers learn about Pennsylvania and university history. He’s also responsible for the university’s extensive rare book collection, for which he recently purchased a 1688 edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and a first edition of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.
“It’s taken nine years to get to where I am,” Wick said. “The professors and different classes I took in History and English at Washington College helped prepare me for the career I’ve gotten into.”
Among the “great professors” Wick studied with at WC were Dr. Clayton Black and Dr. Richard Striner, who were “instrumental” in Wick’s development as a historian and archivist. Dr. Striner will speak at IUP in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial birthday this year.
Wick, who is currently at work on a second book, advises students, especially history majors, to decide early what they’d be interested in pursuing as a career so they can plan for graduate studies.
“Working with archives is an extension of my research in history. It is a logical step from studying history, but it’s not something you just fall into,” he said.
But if you’re unsure of your future, like Wick once was, don’t worry. “There are always more options than you think, especially in history,” he said